By UCHE CHRIS
A growing number of Nigerians are losing confidence in the capacity of President Muhammadu Buhari to continue to run the country and improve the economy and the lives of people. They decried the worsening economic conditions in the country insisting that another term for the President will be catastrophic for the generality of Nigerians.
A straw poll carried out by BusinessHallmark across the some states in Nigeria indicates that most people in the country have suffered a drop in the quality of their lives and standard of living in the past one year; and they believe that the condition will be worse next year if Buhari continues in office. But they were optimistic that in spite of the problems facing the country, the future of Nigeria is bright and hopeful.
The survey centred on three questions: Is your living standard better today than it was one year ago? What do you think about the performance of President Buhari in his first term? What do you think about the future of Nigeria?
The outcome of this survey seems to contradict the rosy and positive picture being painted by the President and some of his officials that the government has performed better than its predecessor. They point to such programme as the school feeding, N5000 cash payment to the so-called most-poor Nigerians, and the N10000 trader money as their main accomplishments.
For instance, last week, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said that his ministry has delivered on the mandate given to him as things have improved under his watch. He said that the government has consistently increased budget votes for capital projects leading to the execution of major infrastructure projects such as the Ibadan-Lagos road, Second Nigeria Bridge, railways and power plants etc.
But as the poll revealed most people especially artisans still complained about the challenge of power, while others said that travelling around the country has become hellish as major roads have practically collapsed. They questioned government sincerity with the claims.
Over 75 percent of the respondents declare unequivocally that their life fortunes have declined dangerously beyond their wildest imagination in the past one year and expressed strong fears that another one year of the situation would be devastating. An insignificant number said that their life has recorded a slight improvement. This group who are mainly in import business based their assessment on the availability of foreign exchange at a more stable rate, which has given their business a new lease of life.
Again, an overwhelming majority of the sample survey believed that Buhari is not the man to change the situation because he lacks the capacity to deliver on the promised economic change. They insisted that his handling of the economy has been unimpressive and even incompetent and demanded for change in 2019. However, an insignificant number – less than 25 percent believed that we cannot judge him until he completes his second term.
But most of the people generally believed in the future of the country if the leadership can improve and tackle the problems. They expressed the views that most of the nation’s problems can be resolved with good leadership as the potential is enormous for a prosperous of the country.
The sample population includes medical doctors, school proprietors, pastors, workers – public and private – transporters, traders, importers, unemployed etc. Doctors observed that in-patient is declining except for the very serious ailments and surgery cases because of the corresponding decline in the ability to pay; most patients resist admissions even when it endangers their health and insist on outpatient, resulting in half empty wards.
Also stress related outpatient people are increasing pointing to rising difficulties in daily survival by the people. Again the cost of drugs is rising making it hard for the practitioners to prescribe the needed medications because of cost. They have to ascertain the ability to pay before deciding on the type of drugs to prescribe, which may be a poor substitute.
The school owners complained of high rate of withdrawals of pupils and students by parents who could not cope with school fees, which has affected adversely the income levels of the schools, making it difficult for them to break even. Teachers especially in private schools complained that most schools now delay salary payment because of high rate of debt in payment of fees by pupils and students.
Some pastors lamented drop in church income as an increasing number of members are facing hard times and could no longer afford to meet up with their giving to the things of God. They said that many of their members have lost their jobs in the past one year and those working and doing their own businesses are facing hard times meeting their personal obligations such as rent, feeding and school fees as a result of the high cost of living.
“The amount of money it took to feed the family a year ago can no longer suffice today and you have to look for more money to augment, which is affecting your ability in other areas”, said a respondent.
One Pastor complained that even church attendance has dropped as some members decide not to come when they are unable to afford the transport fares to church and therefore, either stay at home or go the church nearby. He added that the number of those seeking welfare has also increased and this is negatively affecting church income.
About 40 percent of the sample population are unemployed or have lost their jobs in the past one year and these include those who worked in major companies such as banks and blue chip firms. Some left their jobs because of non-payment of salary, while others were simply interdicted or retrenched. These people said they regretted voting for this government in 2015 and vowed to vote it out in 2019.
Generally the cost of living has skyrocketed as a result of cost inflation arising from the devaluation of the naira in 2017 from N198 per dollar to N360 which has impacted on all imported goods and services. The President previously vowed that he would not be the one to preside over the death of the naira; circumstances forced him to eat the humble pie.